Jazz organists who have also been proficient on the acoustic piano comprise a long list, which makes sense when one considers that many of them learned the piano before they made the organ their primary instrument. But that doesn't necessarily mean that the public will get a chance to hear what they sound like on the piano; in fact, the vast majority of Hammond B-3 icons who emerged in the 1950s and 1960s never played the piano on any of their albums even though they were no doubt quite capable of doing so. Shirley Scott was an exception; although best known for her organ playing, she also did her share of recording as a pianist. And similarly, organist Sam Yahel puts his pianistic skills to work on Hometown. Yahel doesn't play any organ at all on this 2009 release; Hometown is strictly a piano album, and Yahel forms a cohesive acoustic trio with bassist Matt Penman and drummer Jochen Rueckert. This 2009 release demonstrates that Yahel's personality as a pianist isn't radically different from his personality as an organist. Yahel has always had an appreciation of the funky as well as the cerebral, and that holds true on Hometown -- which has its occasional moments of churchy, down-home soulfulness but is a complex, intellectual post-bop effort more often than not. On his organ albums, Yahel has acknowledged Jimmy Smith's funkiness at times even though he is stylistically closer to Larry Young's post-bop; similarly, Yahel brings traces of Gene Harris' soulfulness to Hometown, but more often than not favors post-bop complexity. Although one might think of Harris or Ray Bryant on the gospel-tinged opener, "Jealous Guy," things are much more cerebral on "My Ideal," "Moonlight in Vermont," and other selections. Hometown isn't an exceptional album, but it's certainly a solid one -- and it demonstrates that Yahel shouldn't neglect the acoustic piano.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson